Creative Caesar Salads

creative Caesar salad topped with serungdeng kacang

When I was growing up, we lived in the small resort town of East Glacier Park, Montana, which is the east entrance to Glacier National Park; there were only 250 residents at the foot of these glorious Rocky Mountains.  Because of our town’s minuscule size, it was necessary to travel to larger cities to take care of our major shopping needs, such as school clothes every late summer.  Usually we traveled within our State, 150 miles east to Great Falls; on special occasions, we ventured as far away as Spokane, Washington.  I can still feel the thrill as we prepared, in the early morning dark, to leave on these revered journeys.

During the extra special trips to Spokane, the Ridpath Hotel captivated me; we ate many dinners in its plush dining room, always partaking in their Caesar salad, which came with the pomp and flair of table-side service.  My young heart was even then preparing for my career in food history, for I was fascinated by the coddling of the egg, with the torch used for that purpose; in like manner, I rhapsodized over the delight of the powerful garlic on my tender tongue.

To this day I love Caesar salad; I share a recipe here that lives up to this enduring mental monument.  Be prepared to enjoy.

There are several accounts of how this famous dish began.  After much research, I chose to attribute its origin to the Italian chef Caesar Cardini (1896-1956), who created this American classic at his well-known restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, when in 1924 he was serving an unusual number of Californian visitors, escaping there for the Fourth of July weekend during prohibition.  This original production was served table side, without anchovies, and included whole lettuce leaves, which were eaten by the stems, using one’s fingers.

Caesar salad enhanced with beans

There are numerous opposing views on the safety of coddled eggs.  Some profess that they are not a threat: it is adequate to place the eggs in rapidly boiling water, remove the pan from the heat, and then allow the eggs to cook for 60 seconds; indeed, this technique provides the best taste.  Others propound that holding eggs at 140 degrees F (60 degrees C) for five minutes kills potential contaminants, such as salmonella; this can also be achieved instantly by heating them to 160 degrees F (71 degrees C).  Still others declare that uncooked and under-cooked eggs are not safe at all; they rigidly promote the use of either hard-boiled or pasteurized eggs; the latter are available in some grocery stores.  Note: it is important to use caution in highly susceptible populations, such as small children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with health problems.

Here I cover this dilemma with two good solutions: my favorite version of this dressing is made with coddled eggs, which have been cooked for 60 seconds; nonetheless, for times when extra special care is needed, I provide a method of heating the prepared dressing to 160 degrees; this last procedure, however, thickens our treasured concoction quite a lot.  With both of these two options, the powerful recollected taste from my youth is maintained, which is heightened even further with strong combinations of foods in my creative Caesar salads.

References:

https://whatscookingamerica.net/CaesarSalad.htm

www.reluctantgourmet.com/caesar-salad/

www.foodandwine.com/fwx/food/we-can-thank-tijuana-and-prohibition-caesar-salad

www.ochef.com/447.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/coddled_egg

www.safeeggs.com/blog/will-the-real-safe-caesar-salad-recipe-please-stand-up/

finished Caesar dressing

Caesar Salad Dressing  Yields: about 1 1/2 cups.  Total prep time: 30 min.  If cooking the dressing, total prep time is 45 min.

3 fresh, free-range eggs, at room temperature  (Place in warm water for 10-15 minutes.)

2 tbsp fresh garlic

1 tbsp cider vinegar  (Raw is best; available inexpensively at Trader Joe’s.)

1 scant tbsp Dijon mustard  (Aioli Garlic Mustard from Trader’s is also excellent.)

2 small lemons, juiced

3 dashes of Tabasco

3 dashes of Worcestershire

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 anchovy, optional

3/4 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is important for health; available in natural foods section at local supermarket.)

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

3/4 cup olive oil  (Personally I prefer a light olive oil for flavor; Bel’Olio from Costco is great.)

  1. Use room temperature eggs, by placing them in warm water for 10-15 minutes.  For health reasons, it is important that they are washed, free-range, and fresh.  (I feel comfortable with coddled eggs; these make the best dressing, but if you are sensitive to them, or storing this dressing for more than 4-5 days, take the extra precaution of cooking it as described in step 6-better yet use pasteurized eggs, which are available in some grocery stores.)
  2. coddling eggs

    For coddled eggs, bring a small pan of water to a boil over high heat; prepare an ice bath, using a bowl of cold water with ice cubes.  Place eggs in rapidly boiling water; quickly remove from heat; let them sit for 60 seconds; then, immediately transfer to the ice bath, to the stop cooking process.  Crack them on side of bowl, scooping coddled egg out of shell with a spoon, set aside (see photo).

  3. Meanwhile mince 2 tablespoons of garlic: easily do so by filling a coffee measure, which is 2 tablespoons, with peeled garlic cloves, cut in small pieces, until it is full; then, chop this in a food processor by repeatedly pressing pulse button; set aside.  (TO MAKE DRESSING BY HAND: chop the garlic with a sharp knife; mix all ingredients, except the oil, in a medium/small bowl; then, beat in the oil SLOWLY, to emulsify the dressing.  May also make this in a VitaMix or blender.)
  4. Juice the lemons, set aside.
  5. Add all ingredients, except the oil, to the garlic in the processor.  Turn on machine and blend; place oil in the feeder, which is located on the top (see this feeder in above photo of finished product); thus, oil will drip in slowly for an emulsified dressing.  Adjust seasonings.  This will keep in the refrigerator for 4-5 days; for longer storage, go to the next step.  Serve on the creative salads given lastly.
  6. For cooked dressing, prepare an ice bath, using a large bowl with a smaller one inserted in center (see photo).  Prepare Caesar dressing as described in steps 2-

    cooked dressing cooling in ice bath

    5; transfer this mixture to a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan; cook dressing over low heat, stirring constantly, until this egg mixture reaches 160 degrees F (71 degrees C); immediately place in the ice bath to cool, adding more ice as needed.  Note: the dressing will thicken as it cooks. Serve on salads described below.

  7. I like to be creative with my Caesar salads; here are two suggestions for using foods that highly complement this excellent dressing.  First: mix greens, sweet onion, avocado, Parmesan cheese, and homemade croutons (2016/08/15); then, top this with serungdeng kacang, which is crispy coconut chips and peanuts sautéed with a garlic/onion puree (2017/01/09).  Second: mix greens, Parmesan cheese, homemade croutons, and beans; legumes really accentuate the flavor of this dressing!  Enjoy.

Roasted Beet and Balsamic Chicken Salad

roasted beet and balsamic chicken salad

The inspiration for this salad came when I needed one for a ladies tea at my church.  Since then I have used it to bless several large crowds; thus, it is written for ten servings which I in turn multiply; in this way, chefs write their recipes for restaurant use.  You, however, may choose to prepare half this receipt.  Don’t miss its simple pleasure.

The healer Jeanette, from my previous post, emphasizes the importance of color in her life-giving diet.  I kept her instructions in mind as I chose this produce; thus, I included purple beets as opposed to multi-colored ones, which are light in pigment when cooked; bright yellow peppers provided a health-promoting, visual contrast.

Both this salad’s balsamic chicken and the balsamic vinaigrette (see vinaigrette recipe at 2016/08/22) may be made with real balsamic, which originated in Modena, Italy about 900 years ago.  We, however, without knowing it often use a cheaper, imitation version of this.  I will teach you the difference here, so you can shop wisely, if you want to invest in the best.

Wikipedia defines the aceto balsamico (balsamic vinegar), guarded by European agencies, as a very dark, concentrated, intensely flavored vinegar made wholly or partially from grape must.  The word aceto balsamico is unregulated, but there are three of these protected balsamic vinegars; it is required that they come from the province of Modena and the wider Emilia region surrounding it.  The two best of these always have the word tradizionale, traditional, in their names: Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia; both are made from reduced grape must and aged for numerous years in a series of wooden barrels.  The third Aceto Balsamico di Modena is also made from grape must, but only partially, as it is blended with wine vinegar, making it less expensive.

The HuffPost explains how to discern these authentic versions, by looking for their place of origin and the words: grape must, aged grape must, Mosto d’Uva, or DOC in the list of ingredients.  Without one of these words you will be getting imitation wine vinegar with coloring added to it.

The first two mentioned above, known as balsamico tradizionale, are dark in color and very costly, because they are aged to syrupy perfection for 12-100 years, under rigid restrictions.  Expect to pay up to $400 a bottle.   This traditional balsamic is not vinegar made from wine, but rather it is made from grape pressings that have never been permitted to ferment into wine.  It begins with boiling down sweet white Trebbiano grape pressings to dark syrup, which is aged in an oaken keg with a vinegar “mother”.  Over the years it graduates to smaller and smaller kegs of different kinds of wood, as moisture evaporates from it, further thickening the vinegar and concentrating the flavor; the varying woods, chestnut, cherry wood, ash, mulberry, and juniper, provide its great character.  The result is extravagant taste.  As with the world’s most expensive spice saffron, a little goes a long way.

Aceto Balsamico di Modena, the other regulated balsamic, is partially made with grape must and blended with wine vinegar, making it less costly.  Its restrictions are that it has to be from the Modena or Emilia regions and carry a Protected Geographical Indication status, which comes from a different agency than that protecting the balsamico traditzionale.

Like with good wine, price often dictates quality.  Surprises, however, sometimes occur: this authentic blended vinegar, complete with the authorized seal, is available at Trader Joe’s at a very moderate cost, as their excellent buyers shop globally, negotiating low prices, for the large quantities they are obtaining.  This label is good, but even better may be experienced.

Explore the exciting world of vinegars; make this dressing with a high quality aceto balsamico, or get Trader Joe’s Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (aged 10 years at $3.99 for 8.5 ounces), which is also delicious.  As a result, this salad will tantalize your taste buds!

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balsamic_vinegar

www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/09/balsamic-vineger-fraud_n_5459425.html

https://www.thespruce.com/about-balsamic-vinegar-1808088

cooking tenderloins in balsamic vinegar

Roasted Beet and Balsamic Chicken Salad   Yields: 10 servings (may make half this recipe).  Total prep time: 2 days (for sprouting quinoa)/  active prep time: 3/4 hr/  baking time (for beets): 1 hr.

Note: may substitute ready-made versions, or using my recipes, you may prepare ahead, for keeping on hand at all times: balsamic vinaigrette (2016/08/22), croutons (2016/08/15), and agave roasted nuts (2016/08/15).

1/2 c quinoa, sprouted 1-2 days in advance  (Directions are below.)

2 lg purple beets

1 tbsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best; olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

1 lb chicken tenderloins, about 5 pieces

1/3 c balsamic vinegar

3 med/lg cloves of garlic, minced  (Better yet, use 1 cube of frozen garlic from Trader Joe’s.)

1 yellow bell pepper  (Organic is important, as bell peppers readily absorb pesticides.)

12 oz greens of your choice

8 oz feta cheese, crumbled  (Do not use pre-crumbled feta, as it is treated with preservatives and not as tasty.)

Agave-roasted nuts, made ahead  (See Healthy Green Salads, 2016/08/15.)

Croutons, made ahead  (See Healthy Green Salads, 2016/08/15.)

Balsamic vinaigrette, made ahead  (See 2016/08/22.)

  1. Using either a sprouting jar or a bowl, sprout quinoa 2 days in advance, by first soaking it in water for 6-8 hours (may make extra quinoa); then, draining off water well, let it sit for 1-2 days until sprouted, rinsing about every 12 hours.  For long-term storage-up to 2 weeks-do the following: when 1/4 inch long legs have grown, spread prepared quinoa on a tray or large plate, which is covered with parchment paper (do not rinse prior to this); let dry for about 12 more hours.  Store in a sealed storage bag or jar and refrigerate.  For more detail on sprouting, see Sprouted Three Bean Dip (2017/06/26) and Sprouted Quinoa and Yam Salad (2016/09/05).
  2. If chicken is frozen, thaw in water.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Wash and lightly oil beets; wrap in aluminum foil, leaving closure upright to keep juices from spilling out; bake on cookie sheet for 3/4–1 1/4 hours, depending on size of beets.  Open foil and cool in wrap for 10 minutes; peel skin off by rubbing with hands; cut in 1/4″ julienne slices; set aside.  Meanwhile go to next step.
  4. Chop garlic, if using fresh, set aside.
  5. Heat tablespoon of oil in large skillet; place thawed tenderloins on paper towel, salting and peppering them extra well before cooking; when tiny piece of chicken sizzles in oil, add the rest.  Pour balsamic over meat and add garlic; immediately turn tenderloins over in vinegar.  Let cook for 2-3 minutes, turning over once mid-way.
  6. Starting with the smallest tenderloin, cut each piece in thirds with a spatula; as they are cooked, remove pieces to a bowl.  Do not overcook-the meat will just be turning white inside when done.  Pour juices from pan into bowl of meat, set aside.
  7. Wash and cut bell pepper in small strips.
  8. Place greens in a serving bowl; add chicken, with half the liquid, quinoa, beets, peppers, feta cheese, and nuts; toss with balsamic vinaigrette; serve with croutons. Delicious!

Buzz’ Blue Cheese Dressing

Mom, my siblings, my great nephew, and me at Mom's 93rd birthday

my siblings, mother, great nephew, and me at Mom’s 93rd birthday

My heavenly Father bestowed the best parents in the whole world upon me!   Many gifts have been mine through  them: the biggest from my earthly father was his grand heart, while Mom’s was her beautiful faith.

My 93-year old mother always responds to my gratitude for these holy blessings: “Your most treasured present to me was bringing my husband to the Lord.” This took place in a Starbucks two years before Dad passed.

My parents visited me in Portland every October starting in 1986, until age prohibited their travels.  The momentous day of my father’s salvation took place on their last trip here in 2004.  Note: the jubilance of my family’s glorious reunion will reverberate throughout heaven one day soon.

My father and I hung out during their blessed visits, while Mom shopped ‘til she dropped.  My beloved papa always did one thing: he stocked my larder to the brim every year.  I hopefully anticipated this godsend long before their arrival, as times were lean back then.

Dad taught me how to make his famous blue cheese dressing during one of these hallowed, shared days.  It has graced my refrigerator ever since; there is nothing like it; even people who don’t like blue cheese love this!

Buzz’s recipe has a history. My parents purchased our family restaurant in 1954. Traveling salesmen often stopped at our business in the little tourist village of East Glacier Park, Montana, which is on Highway 2.  I was just approaching puberty in the early sixties, when one of these self-promoters sold Dad a mammoth cook book for restaurant owners.  This huge culinary account was about 10 inches thick.  It contained all that was needed to train my father to flawlessly run his eatery, which grew exceedingly in fame over the years.  Thus, a lone man’s fervid, cold call brought a lifetime’s bounty to me and many others.

I share this magnificent recipe for blue cheese dressing, obtained from this book, with great joy!

easy juicing of lemons

Buzz’ Blue Cheese Dressing  Yields: about 1 3/4 quarts.  Total prep time: 30 minutes.

.5-.7 lb. blue cheese, frozen and thawed for easy crumbling  (For quality, do not use pre-crumbled cheese; Cave Age Blue Cheese from Trader Joe’s is ideal; keep thawed cheese refrigerated until ready to use.)

5 extra large cloves of garlic, or more if smaller, to taste

1/2 medium yellow onion, cut in large chunks

36 ounces Best Foods mayonnaise  (Use 1-30 ounce jar plus 1/5 of another jar.)

2 small lemons, juiced

3/4 tsp salt, or to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive, Himalayan salt is available in bulk at our local Winco.)

3/4 tsp fresh ground pepper, or to taste

6 vigorous shakes of Tabasco Sauce, or to taste

1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce, or to taste

  1. Freeze blue cheese ahead of time; thaw in refrigerator before using; this makes crumbling very easy.  Keep cheese refrigerated until ready to use.
  2. In a food processor, puree garlic and onion; stop processor and scrap down sides twice; set aside.
  3. Place mayonnaise in a large bowl.  (Set aside empty mayonnaise jar.)
  4. Roll lemons on counter, pressing down hard with palm of hand; this loosens the juices in the meat.  Juice fruit, straining seeds, and add to mayonnaise. (Handheld lemon juicers, such as the one in the above photo work really well.  Watch the marketplace to acquire this and a small strainer for bowl.)
  5. Add onion/garlic to mayonnaise to taste-this should taste REALLY STRONG, as the flavor mellows much after several days.  Blend in salt, pepper, Tabasco, and Worcestershire.
  6. Crumble blue cheese into mayonnaise mixture and stir gently, mixing only until blended.
  7. Adjust seasonings.
  8. Fill a sterilized, quart-size, wide-mouth canning jar with dressing.  Place the rest in the empty mayonnaise jar.
  9. Refrigerate, keeps well.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Teaching my balsamic vinaigrette recipe

teaching my balsamic vinaigrette recipe

I acquired my beloved vinaigrette recipe in enchanting Paris.  There I learned the secrets to this simple receipt in the fall of 1985.

At that time I cooked many historical meals at a French friend’s apartment, close to the Louvre. Mornings found me seeking needed ingredients at a profusion of quaint Parisian shops.  There was much mercy for my broken French among the shop owners, who grew to know me.

A flurry of grand entertainment resulted from the hosting of these elaborate meals.  Our varied guests returned warm hospitality in their abodes on alternate nights.  My passion for art galleries quickened during the days when they reciprocated our harmonious feasting.

Indeed, Paris charmed me during that September in the mid-1980s!

My balsamic vinaigrette is extremely simple.  (We used raspberry vinegar for this same recipe in Paris.)  I always dress my famous salads with this balsamic and my father’s blue cheese dressing, which is next week’s tantalizing post.

Peggy’s Balsamic Vinaigrette  Yields: about 22 ounces.  Total prep time: 20 min. Note: may repeat these easy steps to make a double batch; keeps well when refrigerated; any kind of vinegar may be substituted for the balsamic.

5 large cloves of garlic, more to taste if smaller

3/4 cup balsamic vinegar  (Use protected Aceto Balsamico from Modena, Italy, which can be expensive, available reasonably at Trader Joe’s.)

3/4 tsp dried oregano leaves  (A great, organic dried oregano is available at Trader’s for $1.99.)

1 tsp dried basil leaves  (Also a bargain at Trader’s.)

1/4 tsp sugar, or to taste

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is best, at hand in natural foods section at local supermarket.)

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, or to taste

1 tsp high quality mustard  (Aiola mustard from Trader’s is ideal.)

1 cup Bel’Olio Extra Light Olive Oil  (I prefer this light olive oil, available at Costco; other olive oils are strong in taste.)

  1. Peel and cut garlic cloves in half; place in a dry 11-cup, or larger, food processor; chop garlic, stopping machine twice to scrape down sides.  IF you are making two recipes, chop the garlic for both at once; set half aside. (If you don’t have a food processor, may chop cloves fine with a sharp knife; may also use a Vita Mix or blender to make dressing.)
  2. Add vinegar, herbs, sugar, salt, pepper, and mustard to the garlic.
  3. Turn on processor; leave running.
  4. pouring oil in feeder

    Fill the feeder with oil. (The feeder is the plunger that fits in the top of the food processor; it has a small hole in the bottom of it; this allows the oil to drip into vinegar mixture slowly, thus emulsifying the dressing; see photo.) Use all the oil in this manner.  If you are using a blender, be sure to add oil very slowly, blending as you go to emulsify dressing.

  5. Adjust seasonings to taste.  Note: the garlic should taste really strong, as it mellows dramatically after a couple of days.
  6. Pour into bottles, using a funnel.  Save used glass jars for this purpose; be sure to sterilize.
  7. Keeps in the refrigerator for months, or at room temperature for several weeks.  It’s often necessary to leave dressing out at room temperature, for at least an hour before using, when stored in the refrigerator, as the cold oil sometimes solidifies.  Hot tap water will melt the solid oil, also.